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Game Reaction: West Bromwich Albion at Chelsea

Chelsea's Alex and Baggies striker Roman Bednar reenact the Battle of Britain on a rainy London afternoon.
Chelsea's Alex and Baggies striker Roman Bednar reenact the Battle of Britain on a rainy London afternoon.

Perhaps now the whispers of discontent about Chelsea's preseason form will quiet themselves. The Blues began this year exactly as they ended the last, by putting an inferior opponent to the sword; the dismal World Cup and an indifferent string of performances in the past month's friendlies forgotten by a blistering display in the curtain opener. Like Wigan Athletic and Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion fought bravely at the beginning before crumbling under the relentless Chelsea tide.

It is unheard of to begin a campaign in such a fashion. No team in the history of the Premier League has ever won their opening game by a margin of six goals, and such was the gulf in class that one feels that Chelsea could have scored eight or nine had they seen it fit to move into their highest gear. The Baggies simply did not have the defensive solidarity to cope with Chelsea's glittering array of weapons. If they followed Nicolas Anelka, they left Frank Lampard alone in the box. If just one man was assigned to watch Michael Essien, he would be handily steamrolled by one of the Ghanaian's rampaging forays forward. Just about the only Chelsea attacker without a huge impact on the game was new face Yossi Benayoun; the combination of new performance jitters and limited time as a substitute mitigating that slight embarrassment.

Michael Essien was keenly missed last year, so how good was it to see him back in action for the full ninety minutes yesterday? Probably the most valuable player in the Premier League, and certainly the most influential man on Chelsea's roster, Essien started slowly but came into the game once he and Jon Obi Mikel had figured out their respective roles in the 4-2-1-3. Bursts of acceleration, brute strength, and aerial trickery all indicated that Ghana and Chelsea's star man is back to full fitness, giving the team a vital lift in their quest to retain the title.

There are reasons for concern about the composition of the squad, but any doubts raised by the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United must surely have been washed off by Saturday's romp in the rain. Carlo Ancelotti might maintain that beating the Baggies was supremely useful for building team confidence, but the reigning champions hardly seemed racked with doubt as they demolished West Brom. Chelsea have taught Roberto di Matteo's men a valuable lesson in quality, one which every fan of the Blues must hope they take to heart: Albion's next few games include trips to Anfield, the Emirates Stadium, and Old Trafford. Best of luck to Roberto and his team this year!

Top of the table again after just one game. It's a start.

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